Patritti Wines has bottled a red wine – a Grenache Pedro Ximenez blend – in a whirlwind 40 days from harvest to bottling.
The winery conducted a similar project in conjunction with the Australian Wine Research Institute in 1978, gaining national media attention for producing Australia’s youngest-ever commercial red wine.
But unlike the one-off 1978 Grenache Shiraz experiment, Patritti winemaker Ben Heide said the 2020 April Red had already proven a hit and would be back again next year.
He said it was the first red released of the 2020 vintage as far as he was aware “because I don’t think many people got wine in bottle by April”.
“We took it up this year as a bit of a nod to the past and we just thought it was a really good opportunity to show off those local vineyards and get it into bottle really quickly,” Heide says.
“These days with much more modern technology to analyse the wine and make sure the fermentation has finished and is stable, it is easier to bottle so young.
“We’ve been stoked with it and it’s gone down really well. It’s been a fun project and I think the best thing about it is that it’s really good booze.”
Patritti Wines is the last remaining family-owned suburban winery in Adelaide. While it sources the majority of its grapes from its McLaren Vale vineyards, it grew the Grenache and Pedro Ximenez grapes for April Red at two suburban vineyards it manages for the local council.
Only 2,700 bottles of the wine have been produced. It is being sold through Patritti’s cellar door and online with small amounts sent to interstate distributors.
The grapes were picked in mid-March, the wine was bottled in the last week in April and released at the Dover Gardens cellar door on 1 June.
Pedro Ximenez, a white grape traditionally used to make Sherry, makes up just 12.4 percent of the blend and was added to the ferment in whole bunches.
Heide said Pedro was a fairly neutral grape and worked well in a red blend with Grenache.
“It’s not an overly fruity white grape whereas if you had a Riesling or something with a lot of aromatics those characters would really compete with the red,” he says.
“It’s brought some softness and it’s brought some spicy elements and some of that comes from the fact that whole bunches were used.
“We figured that people would want to give it a try because they haven’t had a Grenache Pedro blend and they haven’t had a red wine bottled so young before.
“But really seeing people coming back for more after a couple of weeks has convinced us that we’ll be doing one again next year.”
At 14 percent alcohol volume the wine still has backbone, despite its relatively light colour.
The winemaking process was kept simple – and fast. After fermentation the wine was pressed, settled out, put through a cold process to ensure it was stable and then bottled.
“It’s pretty much the least you can do to a wine,” Heide says.
“The point of it is it’s really young and you get to taste the vintage really young but once the weather warms up and you want a red but you don’t want a heavy red then this wine is really going to come into its own.
“It’s definitely not a rosé, it’s a light red but it’s easy to drink. In saying that, it’s still quite complex and is a real red wine.
“Being a new experiment for us I can’t say for sure how many years it’s going to last.
“It’s gone into bottle so fresh and in such good condition it will last a couple of years and it will be really interesting to see how it develops in the bottle but it’s not intended for long-term cellaring.”
The Grenache for the April Red is sourced from the council-owned Marion Vineyard about 12km south of the centre of Adelaide and 10km north of Reynella, where John Reynell produced one of Australia’s first vintages in 1842.
Planted in 1907, the one-hectare vineyard is surrounded by housing and a public swimming pool in the southern suburbs of Adelaide. Grapes from this year’s vintage will also be used to produce Patritti Marion Vineyard Grenache Shiraz.
The Marion Vineyard is one of only a few commercial urban vineyards left in the world and is claimed to be the oldest as South Australia was one of the few wine producing areas not affected by the global phylloxera outbreak that ravaged vineyards around the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Last year, Patritti also took over the management of another local vineyard on land owned by the City of Marion in an area on the banks of the Sturt River known as Laffer’s Triangle planted with 0.4ha (1 acre) of Pedro Ximenez and Doradillo vines that are more than 50 years old.
“As we only took over the block last year, it takes time to get a vineyard back into balance in terms of the pruning and the planning so we don’t really know how much Pedro we’re going to get each year,” Heide says.
“One thing we have done with this wine is we’ve priced it at $24 a bottle and considering the Grenache has come from the oldest urban vineyard in the world, there’s hardly any Pedro left anywhere and it’s been a bit of a mission to put it all together that’s still keeping it accessible and not pricing it out of people’s reach.
“The response so far has been great so we’re expecting to sell out.”
Photo (Ben Heide): Patritti senior winemaker James Mungall working with the April Red.